Iran’s most conservative newspaper Kayhan, supervised by the office of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, called for the annexation of Bahrain following union talks by GCC member states.
In response to a meeting held in the Saudi capital Riyadh by heads of state of the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which focused on a possible union especially between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, Kayhan published Tuesday a report that described Bahrain as “part of Iran” and called for its annexation.
The paper, however, did not specify the necessary measures that need to be taken towards this end.
According to Kayhan, the union between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain is a “dangerous conspiracy” that aims at “increasing tension in the Middle East.”
Meanwhile, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal on Monday called upon Iran to stop interfering in relations between Saudi and Bahrain. His comments came at a press conference with GCC secretary general.
Talks of a GCC union stirred controversy in Iranian media with several newspapers describing the initiative as an attempt to forge an alliance against Iran.
Members of the Iranian parliament also voiced their concern over the possible union with 190 of them issuing an angry statement condemning the initiative and also focusing on talks about a Saudi-Bahraini union.
Calls for annexing Bahrain to Iran are not new. The proposal was put forward several times in the past. One of the most famous annexation suggestions was presented by former Parliament Speaker Ali Akbar Nateq Nouri.
Bahrain, which is historically and demographically part of the Arab world, gained independence from British rule in 1971. At the time, Iran’s last Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi called for the annexation of this strategic Gulf island, yet stopped the calls after a sweeping majority of its residents voted for independence in a U.N.- supervised referendum.
However, Kayhan claimed in its report that the majority of Bahrainis want to be annexed to Iran and suggested that Bahrain “be returned to its motherland” instead of entering a union with Saudi Arabia.
Calls for the annexation of Bahrain were renewed following the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the Shah.
Iranian authorities have been criticized for supporting anti-government protests in Bahrain while supporting the Syrian regime in its brutal crackdown on peaceful protestors.
On the other hand, Bahrain is seen as having taken several steps towards democratic governance since March 1999 when Sheikh Hamad bin Eissa Al Khalifa came to power.
During his rule, parliamentary life was back to Bahrain for the first time since 1975 and women obtained the right to vote. Political prisoners were released in a step hailed by Amnesty International as “positive.”
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)